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The  New  Art  of  Writing  Plays 


of  the 

Dramatic  Museum 



First  Seriei 

Papers  on  Playmaking : 

Lope  de  Vega.  Translated  by  William  T. 
Brewster.  With  an  Introduction  and 
Notes  by  Brander  Matthews. 

Bronson  Howard.  With  an  Introduc- 
tion by  Augustus  Thomas. 

III  THE  LAW  OF  THE  DRAMA.    By  Ferdinand 
Brunetiere.      Translated    by     Philip     M. 
Hayden.     With  an  Introduction  by  Henry 
Arthur  Jones. 

By  Arthur  Wing  Pinero.     With  an  Intro- 
duction and  Bibliographical  Appendix  by 
Clayton  Hamilton. 



The  New  Art  of  Writing  Plays 






Printed  for  the 

Dramatic  Museum  of  Columbia  University 

in  the  City  of  New  York 


COPYRIGHT    1914  BY 


Introduction  by  Brander  Matthews i 

The  New  Art  of  Writing  Plays  by  Lope  de  Vega.  .  23 

Notes  by  B.  M 4 ! 


BY  a  significant  coincidence  the  marvel- 
lous outflowering  of  the  drama  is  si- 
multaneous in  Spanish  literature  and 
in  English.     Spain  almost  exhausted  her  im- 
mense resources  in  fitting  out  the  invincible 
Armada;  and  England  strained  every  nerve 
to  compass  the  defeat  of  the  dread  fleet. 
Lope  de  Vega,  the  foremost  of  the  Iberian 
playwrights,  actually  sailed  as  a  soldier  on 
the  fatal  voyage  to  the  English  channel;  and 
it  is  dimly  possible  that  Shakspere  also  saw 
service  on  blue  water;  the  year  of  the  run- 
ning sea  fight  is  one  of  those  in  his  biography 
about  which  we  have  no  information,  and  his 
use  of  sea-terms  has  been  declared  by  an 
expert  to  be  scientifically  accurate.     In  this 
simultaneous  development  of  the  drama  in 
England  and  in  Spain  at  the  moment  when 
the  energy  of  the  two  peoples  was  aroused 
to  the  utmost,  we  have   a  confirmation  of 
Brunetiere's  theory  that  the  foundation  of 
our  pleasure  in  the  playhouse  is  the  assertion 
of  the  human  will. 

Shakspere  came  forward  after  the  Eng- 
lish drama  had  already  developed  a  variety 
of  forms;  and  he  found  the  road  broken 
for  him  by  Marlowe  and  Kyd,  by  Lyly  and 
Greene.  At  first  he  followed  in  their  foot- 
steps, however  far  beyond  them  he  was  to 
advance  in  the  end.  Lope  de  Vega,  on  the 
other  hand,  was  a  pioneer;  he  it  was  who 
blazed  the  new  trails  in  which  all  the  suc- 
ceeding playwrights  of  Spain  gladly  trod. 
Shakspere  seems  to  have  cared  little  for  in- 
vention, borrowing  his  plots  anywhere  and 
everywhere,  and  reserving  his  imagination 
for  the  interpretation  of  tales  first  told  by 
others.  Lope,  on  the  other  hand  again, 
abounded  rather  in  invention  than  in  the  in- 
terpreting imagination;  he  was  wonderfully 
fecund  and  prolific,  unsurpassed  in  produc- 
tivity even  by  Defoe  or  Dumas.  It  was 
he  who  made  the  pattern  that  Calderon  ana 
all  the  rest  were  to  employ.  It  was  he  who 
worked  out  the  formula  of  the  Spanish 
comedia,  often  not  a  comedy  at  all  in  our 
English  understanding  of  the  term,  but 
rather  a  play  of  intrigue,  peopled  with  hot- 
blooded  heroes  who  wore  their  hearts  on 

their  sleeves  and  who  carried  their  hands  on 
the  hilts  of  their  swords. 

Where  Lope  de  Vega  and  Shakspere  are 
again  alike  is  that  they  both  wrote  all  their 
plays  for  the  popular  theater,  apparently 
composing  these  pieces  solely  with  a  view  to 
performance  and  caring  nothing  for  any 
praise  which  might  be  derived  from  publica- 
tion. Martinenche,  in  his  study  of  the 
'Comedia  Espagnole'  (p.  243,  note)  dwells 
on  Lope's  carelessness  for  the  literary  re- 
nown to  be  won  by  the  printing  of  his  dra- 
matic poems;  in  his  non-dramatic  poems  he 
took  pride,  just  as  Shakspere  seems  to  have 
read  carefully  the  proofs  of  his  lyrical  nar- 
ratives altho  he  did  not  himself  choose  to 
publish  a  single  one  of  his  plays.  And  Mo- 
liere,  it  may  be  noted,  tells  us  frankly  that 
he  was  completely  satisfied  with  the  success 
of  his  earlier  pieces  on  the  stage,  and  that 
he  had  been  content  to  leave  them  unprinted 
until  his  hand  was  forced  by  a  pirate-pub- 

Shakspere  is  abundant  in  his  allusions  to 
the  art  of  acting  and  reticent  in  his  illusions 
to  the  art  of  playmaking.  In  fact,  there  is 
no  single  recorded  expression  of  his  opinion 


in  regard  to  the  principles  or  the  practice  of 
dramaturgy;  and  here  he  is  in  marked  con- 
trast with  Ben  Jonson,  who  had  a  body  of 
doctrine  about  the  drama,  which  he  set  forth 
in  his  'Discoveries'  and  in  his  prologs,  as 
well  as  in  his  conversations  with  Drummond 
of  Hawthornden.  In  general  Lope's  attitude 
toward  dramaturgic  theory  is  the  same  as 
Shakspere's;  but  on  one  occasion  he  was  in- 
duced to  discuss  the  principles  of  the  art 
he  adorned,  and  to  express  his  opinions  upon 
its  methods.  This  single  occasion  was  when 
he  was  persuaded  to  deliver  a  poetic  address 
upon  the  'New  Art  of  Making  Plays  in  This 

This  'Arte  neuvo  de  hazer  comedias  en 
este  tiempo'  was  originally  published  in  the 
'Rimas'  of  Lope  de  Vega,  Madrid,  1609.  A 
facsimile  reprint  was  issued  by  Mr.  Archer 
M.  Huntington  in  New  York  in  1903.  A 
critical  edition  with  an  introduction  and 
notes  by  A.  Morel-Fatio  appeared  in  the 
Bulletin  Hispanique  for  October-December, 
190.4 — and  also  in  a  separate  pamphlet.  The 
French  editor  accepts  the  year  of  publication 
as  probably  the  year  of  delivery;  and  he 
believes  the  Academy  of  Madrid,  before 


whom  the  poem  was  read,  to  be  "no  doubt 
one  of  those  literary  assemblies,  imitated 
from  those  flourishing  in  Italy  and  holding 
their  meetings  at  the  house  of  some  cultivated 

Lope's  metrical  address  is  plainly  a  re- 
mote imitation  of  Horace's  epistle  to  the  . 
Pisos,  the  model  of  countless  critical  codes 
cast  into  verse.  It  is  the  chief  Spanish  ex- 
ample of  this  type,  as  Boileau's  'Art 
Poetique'  is  the  chief  French  example  and 
Pope's  'Essay  on  Criticism'  the  chief  English 
example.  While  most  of  these  Horatian 
imitations  have  for  their  main  topic  poetry 
and  more  especially  dramatic  poetry,  at- 
tempts were  not  lacking  to  borrow  the  fa- 
miliar form  for  non-literary  themes;  and  as 
a  result  there  are  a  host  of  poems  in  all  the 
modern  tongues  on  the  'Art  of  War'  and  the 
'Art  of  Painting,'  on  the  'Art  of  Bookbind- 
ing' and  on  the  'Art  of  Cookery.'  Even  so 
late  as  the  first  half  of  the  nineteenth  cen- 
tury Samson  (of  the  Comedie-Fran^aise) 
condensed  his  histrionic  advice  into  riming 
couplets  on  the  'Art  of  Acting.' 

Most  of  those  imitations  of  Horace's  di- 
dactic poem  which  deal  with  poetry  and  the 


drama  borrow  from  the  Latin  lyrist  not  only 
their  method  but  also  much  of  their  material. 
The  supersubtle  Italian  theorists  of  the 
theater  were  relying  on  Horace  even  when 
they  supposed  that  they  were  interpreting 
Aristotle;  and  these  expounders  of  Horace 
had  elaborated  legislative  enactments  for  the 
theater  which  were  readily  accepted  by  all 
_who  desired  the  purification  of  the  drama. 
Tim  Classicist  code  of  rules  for  playwrights 
was  mainly  negative;  it  was  made  up  largely 
of  restrictions  upon  the  poet's  freedom ;  it  or- 
dered him  to  do  a  few  things  but  it  forbad 
him  to  do  many  things.  It  prescribed  the 
I  total  separation  of  tragedy  and  comedy,  ad-  j 
'  mitting  nothing  humorous  into  the  former 
and  excluding  everything  serious  from  the 
latter.  It  insisted  severely  upon  the  austere 
dignity  of  tragedy.  It  told  the  dramatist 
to  avoid  all  scenes  of  violence;  and  it  ad- 
vised him  to  use  messengers  to  narrate  all 
events  which  might  not  be  exhibited  with 
propriety.  Above  all,  it  laid  stress  upon  the 
strict  observance  of  the  Three  Unities  de- 
manding that  the  playwright  should  have 
but  one  story  to  set  on  the  stage;  that  he 
should  show  this  single  action  in  one  place 

only ;  and  that  this  single  action,  shown  in  a 
single  place,  should  be  begun  and  completed 
,    in  a  single  day. 

Lope's  'New  Art  of  Making  Plays'  is  not  a 
familiar  epistle  like  Horace's  'Ars  Poetica'; 
rather  is  it  a  familiar  discourse  having  the 
playful  ease  of  an  afterdinner  speech.  It  con- 
sists of  a  series  of  paragraphs  of  irregular 
length,  varying  from  four  to  forty  lines  each. 
It  is  written  in  blank  verse,  hendecasyllabics, 
except  that  the  last  two  lines  of  every  para- 
graph are  in  rime.  These  terminal  couplets 
recall  the  riming  exit-speeches  common  in 
contemporary  Elizabethan  drama;  and  in 
both  cases  apparently  the  rimes  serve  to 
heighten  the  emphasis  at  the  end  of  the  rhe- 
torical period.  At  the  conclusion  of  his  ad- 
dress, Lope  drops  into  Latin  and  inserts  ten 
lines  in  that  tongue — ten  lines  of  unidenti- 
fied origin.  These  Latin  verses  may  be  his 
own  composition  or  they  may  yet  be  traced 
to  some  overlooked  poem.  They  are  brought 
into  harmony  with  the  rest  of  the  work  by  the 
ingenious  device  of  riming  the  last  Latin 
line  with  a  line  in  Spanish,  thus  making  a 
couplet  half  in  the  learned  language  and 
half  in  the  vernacular.  These  two  hybrid 

lines  are  immediately  followed  by  the  usual 
terminal  couplet,  so  that  there  are  only  three 
lines  in  Spanish  after  the  ten  lines  of  Latin. 
In  the  translation  which  follows  the  Latin 
verse  has  been  rendered  into  English  rime 
by  Professor  Edward  Delavan  Perry. 

Professor  Rennert  in  his  authoritative  bi- 
ography of  Lope  (p.  179)  declares  that 
Lope's  address  "is  written  in  a  bantering 
spirit,  and  a  vein  of  good  humor  pervades 
the  whole  poem.  Lope  evidently  did  not 
take  the  matter  very  seriously,  nor  reflect 
deeply  on  what  he  was  about  to  say.  It 
probably  did  not  take  him  much  longer  to 
write  the  'New  Art  of  Making  Plays'  than 
it  took  him  to  write  as  many  lines  of  a  co- 
media.  The  versification,  strangely  enough, 
lacks  Lope's  habitual  ease  and  fluency;  it  is 
careless  and  sometimes  halting,  while  the 
sense  is  not  always  clear, — an  additional  sign 
that  this  treatise  was  hastily  composed." 

Morel-Fatio  notes  that  the  'Arte  Nuevo' 
was  reprinted  only  three  times  during  Lope's 
life-time,  at  Madrid  in  1613  and  1621  and 
at  Hueva  in  1623;  and  he  finds  in  the  poem 
itself  ample  explanation  for  its  lack  of  pop- 
ularity. Lope  was  the  superb  leader  of  an 

astounding  development  of  the  Spanish 
drama;  and  he  himself  tells  us  that  when  he 
delivered  this  address  he  had  already  written 
nearly  five  hundred  plays.  Yet  lie  utters  no 
paean  of  triumph;  he  blows  no  bugle-blast 
of  defiance  to  the  defenders  of  other  stand- 
ards than  those  under  which  he  himself  was 
fighting;  he  does  not  anticipate  the  ardor 
and  the  fervor  which  were  to  animate  Victor 
Hugo's  preface  to  'Cromwell';  he  does  not 
stand  to  his  guns  and  point  to  what  he  has 
accomplished  on  the  stage  as  his  own  justifi- 
cation and  as  a  sufficient  answer  to  the  cavil- 
ing of  criticasters.  His  attitude  seems  to  be 
humble  and  apologetic;  he  admits  the  valid- 
ity of  the  Classicist  code  of  rules;  and  in  his 
own  defence  he  proffers  only  what  the  law- 
yers call  a  plea  of  confession  and  avoidance, 
declaring  that  he  would  have  obeyed  the  be- 
hest of  the  learned  theorists  if  only  he  had 
been  permitted  by  the  public.  He  acknowl- 
edges the  faultiness  of  all  his  dramatic  works 
and  throws  the  blame  on  the  depravity  of 
public  taste,  since 

We  who  live  to  please,  must  please  to  live. 

He  supports  his  acceptance  of  the  Classi- 

cist  doctrine  with  a  brave  show  of  erudition 
and  with  mention  of  Cicero,  Donatus,  Ro- 
bortello,  Julius  Pollux,  Manetti,  Plutarch, 
Athenaeus,  Xenophon,  Valerus  Maximus, 
Pietro  Crinito  and  Vitruvius;  and  Morel- 
Fatio  declares  that  this  pedantic  parade  has 
no  solid  foundation  of  scholarship,  being  de- 
rived entirely  from  two  writers,  Donatus, 
the  commentator  on  Terence,  and  Robortello, 
the  commentator  on  Aristotle  and  on  Hor- 
ace. In  this  second-hand  echoing  of  the  co- 
difiers  of  critical  theory  the  great  Spanish 
playwright  reveals  no  independence  of  inter- 
pretation, accepting  without  question  what- 
ever he  has  found  in  the  commentaries  and 
never  asking  himself  whether  the  commenta- 
tors had  any  valid  reason  for  the  rules  they 
laid  down  so  authoritatively.  In  other 
words,  the  'Arte  Nuevo'  does  not  disclose 
Lope's  possession  of  any  critical  curiosity 
or  of  any  critical  acumen,  or  even  of  any  real 
interest  in  the  discussion  of  critical  theories. 
We  have  no  right  to  expect  that  those  as 
richly  endowed  with  the  creative  faculty  as 
Lope  indisputably  was,  should  also  have  an 
equal  share  of  the  critical  faculty.  The 
analysis  of  the  principles  of  their  own  special 

art  by  the  poets  and  painters  and  playwrights 
who  venture  into  the  critical  arena  is  always 
interesting  but  it  is  rarely  philosophic  and  it 
is  generally  technical.  And  it  is  to  technic 
that  Lope  devotes  the  most  of  his  discourse. 
He  trips  lightly  down  the  history  of  the  new 
Spanish  drama;  and  then  he  proceeds  to  be- 
stow practical  advice  on  aspiring  young 
playwrights.  He  tells  these  novices  that  they 
must  give  the  public  what  it  wants,  and  he' 
counsels  them  as  to  the  best  methods  of  tick- 
ling the  taste  of  the  uncritical  playgoer.  He 
descends  to  minute  practical  details;  and,  in 
short,  his  suggestions  are  those  of  a  veteran 
of  the  craft  supplying  lessons  in  playwriting 
for  a  correspondence-school. 

In  so  far  as  Lope  lays  down  any  critical 
principles  at  all,  these  are  but  the  codifica- 
tion of  his  own  instinctive  practise.  His 
address  is  like  "the  speech  of  a  carpenter 
standing  on  the  peak  of  a  building  he  has 
just  erected" — to  borrow  Richter's  sarcastic 
phrase.  Lope  had  himself  succeeded  as  a 
practical  playwright;  and  his  plays  had  cer- 
tain characteristics  and  were  put  together 
in  a  certain  fashion.  As  these  plays  had 
pleased  the  public,  beginners  would  do  well 
1 1 

to  consider  these  characteristics  and  to  fol- 
low this  fashion.  He  utters  his  shrewd  rec- 
ommendations most  unpretentiously,  with  no 
hint  of  arrogance  and  with  a  friendly  genial- 
ity of  tone.  Behind  his  modest  precepts  stand 
his  own  plays  in  which  his  ideal  is  more 
sharply  made  manifest.  Lope's  ideal  is  that 
of  all  his  contemporaries,  including  Calderon 
(who  followed  in  his  footsteps  and  often 
borrowed  his  plots).  It  is  that  the  stage 
is  intended  primarily  for  story-telling,  for 
presenting  in  action  a  serial  tale  which  shall 
excite  the  constant  interest  of  curiosity. 

He  bids  the  beginner  to  put  together  his 
story  with  the  utmost  care,  laying  the  foun- 
dations in  the  first  act,  contriving  unexpected 
complications  for  the  second  and  concealing 
the  solution  of  the  action  until  the  very  last 
moment  possible,  as  otherwise  the  specta- 
tors may  get  up  and  go  out,  when  once  they 
can  foresee  the  end.  He  lays  all  his  stress 
upon  adroitness  and  ingenuity  of  plot-build- 
ing; and  such  casual  remarks  as  he  makes 
upon  character-delineation  seem  perfunctory. 
In  thus  emphasizing  the  primary  importance 
of  the  action  Lope  is  only  echoing  Aristotle, 
— altho  he  probably  was  not  aware  of  this. 

And  the  practise  of  the  Spanish  playwrights 
under  the  lead  of  Lope  was  closely  akin  to 
that  of  their  contemporaries,  the  English 
playwrights  under  the  lead  of  Kyd,  and  again 
later  under  the  lead  of  Beaumont  and 
Fletcher.  Like  Lope,  Kyd  in  his  way  and 
Beaumont  and  Fletcher  in  theirs,  were  story- 
tellers on  the  stage.  Poets  they  were  all  of  / 
them,  but  as  playwrights  they  depended  on 
plot,  on  suspense  and  especially  on  surprize 
— often  achieved  only  by  contradiction  of 

The  abiding  interest  of  the  'Arte  Nuevo' 
is  two-fold.  It  resides  partly  in  the  sugges- 
tiveness  of  the  elementary  lessons  in  the  art 
of  playmaking,  which  Lope  here  proffers  to 
apprentices  in  the  art  and  which  are  invalu- 
able as  an  aid  for  proper  appreciating  the 
methods  of  the  Spanish  playwrights  of  the 
Age  of  Gold.  It  resides  partly  in  the  cu- 
riously deprecating  attitude  taken  by  Lope 
toward  his  own  works,  altho  he  was  ap- 
proaching the  pinnacle  of  his  fame  when  he 
penned  this  didactic  poem.  Is  the  great 
Spanish  playwright  sincere  in  his  humility 
before  the  code  of  the  Classicists?  Is  his 
self-abasement  genuine — or  is  it  ironic? 

Morel-Fatio  follows  Menendez  y  Pelayo  in 
accepting  it  at  its  face  value.  Guillaume 
Huszar,  in  his  useful  book  on  Corneille  and 
the  Spanish  theater,  thinks  that  when  Lope 
pretends  to  disparage  his  own  plays  he  is  not 
to  be  taken  seriously.  I  confess  that  I 
should  like  to  agree  with  this  latter  view;  and 
there  is  some  little  internal  evidence  in  sup- 
port of  it.  But  the  balance  is  rather  in  favor 
of  the  former  opinion.  Yet  however  hon- 
est may  be  Lope's  willingness  to  do  penance 
to  the  Classicist  code  which  he  admits  to 
have  outraged,  his  is  a  proud  humility  after 
all.  He  is  not  really  as  abased  and  as  plain- 
tive as  some  of  his  critics  have  asserted. 
Modest  as  he  may  be,  he  takes  care  to  make 
his  own  position  plain.  For  all  his  easy 
attitude  and  his  tolerant  geniality,  for  all  his 
lightness  of  touch  on  the  one  side  and  his 
pedantic  citation  on  the  other,  he  does  not 
fail  to  ihsist  on  his  authorship  of  nearly  half 
a  thousand  plays  and  to  remind  his  auditors 
N  that  he  has  continuously  succeeded  in  pleas- 
,  ing  the  public,  even  tho  he  had  to  violate  the 
v  rules  in  order  to  win  this  success. 

Lope  assumes  a  detached  attitude  and  his 
tone  is  bantering,  as  Professor  Rennert  has 

suggested.  He  does  not  here  display  the 
intense  personal  interest  in  the  analysis  of  his 
own  work  which  glows  and  burns  thru  all 
Corneille's  'Examens,'  in  spite  of  the  French 
dramatic  poet's  occasional  confession  of  a 
lapse  from  the  strict  letter  of  the  law.  Lope 
has  none  of  the  prophetic  fire  of  Hugo's  fa- 
mous preface  in  anticipatory  defence  of  the 
plays  he  was  going  to  write.  In  fact,  it  is 
difficult  to  deny  that  this  poem  is  a  pretty 
careless  piece  of  work,  tossed  off  in  an  idle 
hour,  evoked  by  a  special  occasion  when  it 
behooved  the  speaker  to  assume  a  self-de- 
precatory attitude.  But  it  is  not  the  "la- 
mentable palinode"  that  Menendez  y  Pelayo 
called  it;  nor  is  it  exactly  what  Mr.  Ormsby 
termed  it  (in  the  Quarterly  Review  for  Jan- 
uary, 1894)  "virtually  the  manifesto  of  a 
triumphant  dictator,  a  dramatic  Napoleon 
who,  while  professing  the  profoundest  re- 
spect for  the  sovereign  will  of  the  public, 
scarcely  cared  to  hide  his  contempt  for  its 
intelligence  or  its  taste,  which  foreign  critics, 
he  says,  justly  called  barbarous;  or  to  dis- 
guise the  fact  that  he  owed  his  power  to  his 
knowledge  and  adroit  manipulation  of  its 
weaknesses."  That  scholars  so  well  equipt 

for  the  consideration  of  Spanish  literature 
and  so  well  fitted  for  the  interpretation  of 
the  Spanish  character  as  Ormsby  and  Ren- 
nert,  Morel-Fatio  and  Menendez  y  Pelayo 
can  take  views  as  conflicting  as  those  severally 
expressed  by  them, — this  is  proof  positive  Lope  has  not  taken  the  pains  neces- 
sary to  make  his  position  clear. 

While  Lope  was  willing  at  least  to  render 
lip-service  to  the  code  of  the  Classicists,  one 
of  his  followers  in  the  theater,  Tirso  de  Mo- 
lina, (best  known  as  the  author  of  the  earli- 
est dramatization  of  the  Don  Juan  legend)  in 
his  'Cigarrales  de  Toledo,'  published  in 
1624,  fifteen  years  after  Lope's  address,  is 
bold  in  denying  the  validity  of  any  rule  lim- 
iting the  duration  of  time  or  forbidding  a 
change  of  scene,  (See  Breitinger's  'Unites 
d'  Aristote'  pp.  29  seq. )  But  Cervantes  in  the 
first  part  of  'Don  Quixote,'  published  in 
1605,  four  years  before  the  delivery  of  the 
'Arte  Nuevo,'  had  revealed  a  plentiful  lack 
of  sympathy  for  the  so-called  Aristotelian 
rules.  There  is  no  disputing  the  irony  in 
his  portrait  of  the  Canon  of  Toledo  who  de- 
manded the  appointment  of  "some  intelligent 
and  sensible  person  at  the  capital  to  examine 

all  plays  before  they  were  acted,  not  only 
those  produced  in  the  capital  itself,  but  all 
that  were  intended  to  be  acted  in  Spain; 
without  whose  approval,  seal  and  signature, 
no  local  magistracy  should  allow  any  play  to 
be  acted."  (Ormsby's  translation,  ii,  387, 
chapter  xlviii).  Earlier  remarks  of  the 
Canon  show  us  that  he  was  familiar  with 
whole  Classicist  code;  indeed,  Ormsby  (in  a 
foot-note  to  his  translation  of  this  chapter) 
calls  attenion  to  the  substantial  identity  of  the 
Canon's  opinions  with  those  expressed  by  Sir 
Philip  Sidney  in  the  'Apology  for  Poesy.'  In 
another  work  of  fiction  written  more  than 
two  centuries  later,  in  the  'Nicholas  Nickel- 
by'  of  Dickens,  we  are  introduced  to  a  Mr. 
Murdle  whose  knowledge  is  obviously 
vaguer  than  the  Canon's  but  who  is  quite  as 
strenuous  in  his  insistence  upon  "the  preser- 
vation of  the  unities." 

Into  the  vext  question  of  the  personal  rela- 
tions of  Cervantes  and  of  Lope,  it  is  not 
needful  to  enter  here.  It  would  be  pleasant 
to  believe  that  each  really  appreciated  the 
genius  of  the  other;  but  however  pleasant 
this  is  not  quite  possible.  Cervantes  seems 
not  to  have  suspected  the  greatness  of 

his  own  masterpiece;  and  it  is  plain  that  he 
had  a  special  fondness  for  his  plays,  which 
had  not  succeeded.  Lope  must  have  been 
conscious  of  his  own  position  at  the  head  of 
all  Spanish  poets ;  he  might  assume  a  humble 
attitude  when  he  was  the  author  of  less  than 
five  hundred  plays  but  by  the  time  that  he 
had  more  than  a  thousand  pieces  to  his  credit 
the  garment  of  humility  is  no  longer  becom- 
ing. Martinenche  in  his  'Comedia  Espa- 
gnole'  (pp.  113-4)  follows  Morel-Fatio  in 
pointing  out  Lope's  later  satisfaction  with 
what  he  had  accomplished,  even  to  the  extent 
1  of  claiming  for  himself  the  invention  of  the 
new  type  of  play  which  had  established  itself 
on  the  Spanish  stage. 

When  we  consider  the  extraordinary 
vogue  of  Lope  as  a  playwright  in  the  Golden 
Age  of  Spanish  literature  and  the  swift  dif- 
fusion of  his  fame  thruout  Europe,  when  we 
recall  his  unparalleled  productivity,  and 
when  we  remember  his  supreme  importance 

I  as  a  representative  of  a  superb  development 
of  the  modern  drama,  we  cannot  fail  to  be 
surprised  to  discover  that  no  adequate  at- 
tempt has  ever  been  made  to  present  him  to 
the  English  reading  public.  In  French  there 

are  two  translations  of  selections  from  his 
dramatic  works;  and  there  are  also  varied 
renderings  into  German.  But  in  English 
there  is  little  or  nothing.  Lord  Holland  in 
1787  analized  the  'Star  of  Seville'  and 
turned  the  more  striking  episodes  into  Eng- 
lish; and  it  was  on  this  summary  and  on 
these  fragments  that  Mrs.  Kemble  founded 
her  five  act  'Star  of  Seville'  published  in 
1837.  Holcroft  had  utilized  Lope's  'Padre 
Engafiado'  in  the  plot  of  his  'Father  Outwit- 
ted,' published  in  1805.  A  perversion  of 
Lope's  play  on  the  'Romeo  and  Juliet'  story 
had  been  issued  in  English  in  1770;  and  this 
moved  F.  W.  Cosens  to  print  (for  private 
distribution)  in  1869  a  careful  translation  of 
'Castelvines  y  Montreses'.  In  the  sixth 
volume  of  'The  Drama,'  edited  by  Alfred 
Bates  and  published  in  1903,  there  is  a  trans- 
lation of  the  'Perro  del  Hortelano,'  (the 
'Gardener's  Dog')  by  W.  H.  H.  Chambers. 
These  scattered  versions  and  perversions  ap- 
parently represent  all  of  Lope's  dramatic 
work  which  has  found  its  way  into  our  lan- 
guage. It  is  greatly  to  be  desired  that  at 
least  one  volume  might  be  issued  in  English 
to  contain  the  'Star  of  Seville,'  the  'Gard- 

ener's  Dog,'  the  'Romeo  and  Juliet,'  and  the 
'Duchess  of  Malfi'  plays,  and  also  the  'Phy- 
sician of  his  own  Honor,'  and  the  'Alcalde 
of  Zalamea,'  of  which  Calderon's  rehand- 
lings  are  already  accessible  in  Fitzgerald's 
free  rendering. 

A  few  scattered  passages  from  the  'Arte 
Nuevo'  were  turned  into  English  couplets  by 
Lord  Holland;  and  some  of  those  were  bor- 
rowed (without  credit)  in  G.  H.  Lewes's 
stimulating  study  of  the  Spanish  Drama,  is- 
sued in  1846.  An  inadequate  and  incom- 
plete version,  derived  mainly  from  the 
French  translation  of  Dumas-Hinard,  was 
included  in  an  essay  on  Lope  published  in  the 
Catholic  World  for  September,  1878.  There 
is  a  careful  abstract  in  Professor  Rennert's 
standard  biography  of  Lope  (1904).  But 
Professor  Brewster's  translation  is  the  first 
attempt  to  render  into  English  the  whole  of 
Lope's  advice  to  the  aspiring  playwrights  of 
his  own  time  and  country. 

(June  1914.) 



Addressed  to  the  Academy  at  Madrid. 

1.  You  command  me,  noble  spirits,  flow- 
er of  Spain, — who  in  this  congress  and  re- 
nowned academy  will  in  short  space  of  time 
surpass   not    only    the    assemblies    of    Italy 
which  Cicero,  envious  of  Greece,  made  fa- 
mous with  his  own  name,  hard  by  the  Lake 
of  Avernus,  but  also  Athens  where  in  the 
Lyceum  of  Plato  was  seen  high  conclave  of 
philosophers,— to  write  you  an  art  of  the 
play  which  is  today  acceptable  to  the  taste  of 
the  crowd. 

2.  Easy  seems  this  subject,  and  easy  it 
would  be  for  anyone  of  you  who  had  written 
very  few  comedies,   and  who  knows  more 

out  the  art  of  writing  them  and  of  all  these 
things;  for  what  condemns  me  in  this  task 
*  .Jis  that  I  have  written  them  without  art. 

3.  Not  because  I  was  ignorant  of  the  pre- 
cepts; thank  God,  even  while  I  was  a  tyro  in 
grammar,  I  went  through  the  books  which 


treated  the  subject,  before  I  had  seen  the  sun 
run  its  course  ten  times  from  the  Ram  to  the 

4.  i  But  because,  in  fine,!  found  that  com- 
edies were  not  at  that  time,  in  Spain,  as  their  j 
first  devisers  in  the  world  thought  that  they! 
should  be  written;  but  rather  as  many  ru 
fellows  managed  them,  who  confirmed  the  1 
crowd  in  its  own  crudeness  I  and  so  they  were 
introduced  in  such  wise  that  he  who  now 
writes  them  artistically  dies  without  fame  I 
and    guerdon;    for    custom    can    do    more 
among  those  who  lack  light  of  art  than  rea- 

Tn  and  force. 
5.  True  it  is  that  I  have  sometimes  writ- 
ten in  accordance  with  the  art  which  few 
know;  but,  no  sooner  do  I  see  coming  from 
some  other  source  the  monstrosities  full  of 
painted  scenes  where  the  crowd  congregates 
and  the  women  who  canonize  this  sad  busi- 
ness, than  I  return  to  that  same  barbarous 
habit  J  and  when  I  have  to  write  a  comedy  I 
lock  in  the  precepts  with  six  keys,  I  banish 
Terence  and  Plautus  from  my  study  that  they 
may  not  cry  out  at  me;  for  truth,  even  in 
dumb  books,  is  wont  to  call  aloud;  I  and  I 
write  in  accordance  with  that  art  whicn  they 

devised  who  aspired  to  the  applause  of  the 
crowd;  for,  since  the  crowd  pays  for  the 
comedies,  it  is  fitting  to  talk  foolishly  to  it  to 
satisfy  its  taste. 

6.  Yet  true  comedy  has  its  end  estab- 
lished like  every  kind  of  poem  or  poetic  art,  * 
and  that  has  always  been  to  imitate  the  ac-   1 

/tions  of  men  and  to  paint  the  customs  of  their 
age.  Furthermore,  all  poetic  imitation  what- 
soever is  composed  of  three  things,  which 
are  discourse,  agreeable  verse,  harmony,  that 
is  to  say  music,  which  so  far  was  common 
also  to  tragedy;  comedy  being  different  from 
tragedy  in  that  it  treats  of  lowly  and  plebeian 
actions,  and  tragedy  of  royal  and  great  ones. 
LooTc  whether  there  be  in  our  comedies  few 

7.  /^tt/ojwas  the  name  given  to  them,  for 
they  imitate  the  actions  and  the  doings  of 
the  crowd.     Lope  de  Rueda  was  an  example 
in  Spain  of  these  principles,  and  today  are 
to  be  seen  in  print  prose  comedies  of  his  so 
lowly  that  he  introduces  into  them  the  doings 
of  mechanics  and  the  love  of  the  daughter 
of  a  smith;  whence  there  has  remained  the 

*  custom  of  calling  the   old  comedies   entre- 
meses,  where  the  art  persists  in  all  its  force, 

there  being  one  action  and  that  between  ple- 
beian people ;  for  an  entr ernes  with  a  king  has 
never  been  seen.  And  thus  it  is  shown  how 
the  art,  for  very  lowness  of  style,  came  to  be 
held  in  great  disrepute,  and  the  king  in  the 
comedy  to  be  introduced  for  the  ignorant. 

8.  Aristotle  depicts  in  his  'Poetics', — al- 
tho   obscurely, — the  beginning  of  comedy; 
the  strife  between  Athens  and  Megara  as  to 
which  of  them  was  the  first  inventor;  they 
of    Megara    say    that    it    was    Epicarmus, 
while    Athens    would    have    it    that    Mag- 
netes   was   the    man.     Elias    Donatus    says 
it  had  its  origin  in  ancient  sacrifices.       He 
names  Thespis  as  the  author  of  tragedy,— 
following  Horace,  who  affirms  the  same, — as 
of    comedies,  Aristophanes.       Homer  com- 
posed the  'Odyssey'  in  imitation  of  comedy, 
but  the  'Iliad'  was  a  famous  example  of  trag- 
edy, in  imitation  of  which  I  called  my  'Jer- 
usalem' an  epic,  and  added  the  term  tragic; 
and  in  the  same  manner  all  people  commonly 
term  the  'Inferno,'  the  'Purgatorio,'  and  the 
'Paradise'  of  the  celebrated  poet  Dante  Ali- 
ghieri  a  comedy,  and  this  Manetti  recognizes 
in  his  prolog. 

9.  Now  everybody  knows  that  comedy, 


as  if  under  suspicion,  was  silenced  for  a  cer- 
tain time,  and  that  hence  also  satire  was 
born,  which,  being  more  cruel,  more  quickly 
came  to  an  end,  and  gave  place  to  the  New 
Comedy.  The  choruses  were  the  first  things ; 
then  the  fixt  number  of  the  characters  was 
introduced;  but  Menander,  whom  Terence 
followed,  held  the  choruses  in  despite,  as 
offensive.  Terence  was  more  circumspect  as 
to  the  principles;  since  he  never  elevated  the 
style  of  comedy  to  the  greatness  of  tragedy, 
which  many  have  condemned  as  vicious  in 
Plautus;  for  in  this  respect  Terence  was 
more  wary. 

i  o/"  Tragedy  has  as  its  argument  history, 
and  comedy  fiction;  for  this  reason  it  was 
called  flat-footed,  of  humble  argument,  since 
the  actor  performed  without  buskin  or  stage. 
There  were  comedies  with  the  pallium, 
mimes,  comedies  with  the  toga,  fabulae  atel- 
lanae,  and  comedies  of  the  tavern,  which 
were  also,  as  now,  of  various  sorts. 

11.  With  Attic  elegance  the  men  of 
Athens  chided  vice  and  evil  custom  in  their 
comedies,  and  they  gave  their  prizes  both  to 
the  writers  of  verse  and  to  the  devisers  of 
action.  For  this  Tully  called  comedies  "the 


mirror  of  custom  and  a  living  image  of  the 
truth," — a  very  high  tribute,  in  that  comedy 
ran  even  with  history.  Look  whether  it  be 
worthy  of  this  crown  and  glory ! 

12.  But  now   I   perceive   that   you   are 
saying  that  this  is  merely  translating  books 
and  wearying  you  with  painting  this  mixed- 
up  affair.     Believe  me  there  has  been  a  rea- 
son why  you  should  be  reminded  of  some  of 
these  things;  for  you  see  that  you  ask  me 
to  describe  the  art  of  writing  plays  in  Spain, 
where  whatever  is  written  is  in  defiance  of 
art;  and  to  tell  how  they  are  now  written 
contrary  to  the  ancient  rule  and  to  what  is 
founded  on  reason,  is  to  ask  me  to  draw  on 
my  experience,  not  on  art,  for  art  speaks 
truth  which  the  ignorant  crowd  gainsays. 

13.  If  then,  you  desire   art,   I  beseech 
you,  men  of  genius,  to  read  the  very  learned 
Robortello  of  Udine  and  you  will  see  in  what 
he  says  concerning  Aristotle  and  especially 
in  what  he  writes  about  comedy,  as  much  as 
is  scattered  among  many  books;  for  every- 
thing of  today  is  in  a  state  of  confusion. 

14.  If  you  wish  to  have  my  opinion  of 
the  comedies  which  now  have  the  upper  hand 
and  to  know  why  it  is  necessary  that  the 


crowd  with  its  laws  should  maintain  the^vile_ 
chimera  of  this  comic  monster,  I  will  tell  you 
what  I  hold,  and  do  you  pardon  me,  since  I 
must  obey  whoever  has  power  to  command 
me, — that,  gilding  the  error  of  the  crowd,  I 
desire  to  tell  you  of  what  sort  I  would  have 
them;  for  there  is  no  recourse  but  to  follow 
art  observing  a  mean  between  the  two  ex- 

15. "Let  the  subject  be  chosen  and  do  not 
be  amused, — may  you  excuse  these  precepts ! 
— if  it  happens  to  deal  with  kings;  tho, 
for  that  matter,  I  understand  that  Philip 
the  Prudent,  King  of  Spain  and  our  lord, 
was  offended  at  seeing  a  king  in  them ;  either 
because  the  matter  was  hostile  to  art  or  be- 
cause the  royal  authority  ought  not  to  be 
represented  among  the  lowly  and  the  vulgar. 

1 6.  This  is  merely  turning  back  to  the 
Old  Comedy,  where  we  see  that  Plautus  in- 
troduced gods,  as  in  his  'Amphitryon'  he  rep- 
resents Jupiter.  God  knows  that  I  have  dif- 
ficulty in  giving  this  my  approbation,  since 
Plutarch,  speaking  of  Menander,  does  not 
highly  esteem  Old  Comedy.  But  since  we 
are  so  far  away  from  art  and  in  Spain  do  it 

a  thousand  wrongs,  let  the  learned  this  once 

close  their  lips. 

/  r 

17.^  Tragedy  mixed  with  comedy  and 
Terence  with  Seneca,  tho  it  be  like  another 
minotaur  of  Pasiphae,  will  render  one  part 
grave,  the  other  ridiculous;  f^r  this  variety 
causes  much  delight.  Nature  gives  us  good 
example,  for  through  such  variety  it  is  beau- 

1 8.  Bear  in  mind  that  this  subject  should 
contain  one  action  only,  seeing  to  it  that  the 
story  in  no  manner  be  episodic;  I  mean  the 
introduction  of  other  things  which  are  beside 
the  main  purpose;  nor  that  any  member  be 
omitted  which  might  ruin  the  whole  of  the 
context.  There  is  no  use  in  advising  that  it 
should  take  place  in  the  period  of  one  sun, 
tho  this  is  the  view  of  Aristotle ;  but  we  lose 
our  respect  for  him  when  we  mingle  tragic 
style  with  the  humbleness  of  mean  comedy. 
Let  it  take  place  in  as  little  time  as  possible, 
except  when  the  poet  is  writing  history  in 
which  some  years  have  to  pass;  these  he 
can  relegate  to  the  space  between  the  acts, 
wherein,  if  necessary,  he  can  have  a  character 
go  on  some  journey;  a  thing  that  greatly  of- 

fends  whoever  perceives  it.     But  let  not  him 
who  is  offended  go  to  see  them. 

19.  Oh !  how  lost  in  admiration  are  many 
at  this  very  time  at  seeing  that  years  are 
passed  in  an  affair  to  which  an  artificial  day 
sets  a  limit;  tho   for  this  they  would  not 
allow  the  mathematical  day  I     But,  consider- 
ing that  the  wrath  of  a  seated  Spaniard  is 
immoderate,  when  in  two  hours  there  is  not 
presented  to  him  everything  from  Genesis  to 
the  Last  Judgment,  I  deem  it  most  fitting,  if  it 
be  for  us  here  to  please  him,  for  us  to  adjust 
everything  so  that  it  succeeds. 

20.  vThe   subject  once   chosen,   write   in    \\ 
prose,  and  divide  the  matter  into  three  acts 

of  time,  seeing  to  it,  if  possible,  that  in  each 
one  the  space  of  the  day  be  not  broken.  Cap- 
tain Virues,  a  worthy  wit,  divided  comedy 
into  three  acts,  which  before  had  gone  on  all 
fours,  as  on  baby's  feet,  for  comedies  were 
then  infants.  I  wrote  them  myself,  when 
eleven  or  twelve  years  of  age,  of  four  acts 
and  of  four  sheets  of  paper,  for  a  sheet  con- 
tained each  act;  and  then  it  was  the  fashion 
that  for  the  three  intermissions  were  made 
three  little  entremeses,  but  today  scarce  one,, 
and  then  a  dance,  for  the  dancing  is  so* 

important  in  comedy  that  Aristotle  ap- 
proves of  it,  and  Athenaeus,  Plato,  and 
Xenophon  treat  of  it,  though  this  last  disap- 
proves of  indecorous  dancing;  and  for  this 
reason  he  is  vexed  at  Callipides,  wherein  he 
pretends  to  ape  the  ancient  chorus.  The 
matter  divided  into  two  parts,  see  to  the  con- 
nection from  the  beginning  until  the  action 
runs  down;  but  do  not  permit  the  untying  of 
the  plot  until  reaching  the  last  scene ;  for  the 
crowd,  knowing  what  the  end  is,  will  turn  its 
face  to  the  door  and  its  shoulder  to  what  it 
has  awaited  three  hours  face  to  face;  for  in 
what  appears  nothing  more  is  to  be  known. 
2i.-\  Very  seldom  should  the  stage  remain 
without  someone  speaking,  because  the  crowd 
becomes  restless  in  these  intervals  and  the 
story  spins  itself  out  at  great  length;  for, 
besides  its  being  a  great  defect,  the  avoidance 

of  it  increases  grace  and  artifice.    X'' 

vO  IB 

22.  i  Begin  then,  and,  with  simple  lan- 
guage, ilo  not  spend  sententious  thoughts  and 
witty  sayings  on  family  trifles,  which  is  all 
that  the  familiar  talk  of  two  or  three  people 
is  representing.  But  when  the  character  who 
is  introduced  persuades,  counsels  or  dis- 
suades, then  there  should  be  gravity  and  wit; 


''       mi 

for  then  doubtless  is  truth  observed,  since 
a  man  speaks  in  a  different  style  from  what 
is  common  when  he  gives  counsel,  or  per- 
suades, or  argues  against  anything.  Aristides, 
the  rhetorician,  gave  us  warrant  for  this ;  for 
he  wishes  the  language  of  comedy  to  be  pure, 
clear,  and  flexible,  and  he  adds  also  that  it 
should  be  taken  from  the  usage  of  the  peo- 
ple, this  being  different  from  that  of  polite 
society;  for  in  the  latter  case  the  diction  will 
be  elegant,  sonorous,  and  adorned.  Do  not 
drag  in  quotations,  nor  let  your  language  of- 
fend because  of  exquisite  words;  for,  if  one 
is  to  imitate  those  who  speak,  it  should  not 
be  by  the  language  of  Panchaia,  of  the 
Metaurus,  vpf  hippogriffs,  demi-gods  and  cen- 

irs.  i    • 

23.  |  If  the  king  should  speak,  imitate  as 
much  as  possible  the  gravity  of  a  king;  if 
the  sage  speak,  observe  a  sententious  mod- 
esty; describe  lovers  with  those  passions 
which  greatly  move  whoever  listens  to  themjj 
manage  soliloquies  in  such  a  manner  that  the 
recitant  is  quite  transformed,  and  in  chang- 
ing himself,  changes  the  listenef^tLet  him 
ask  questions  and  reply  to  himself,  and  if 
he  shall  make  plaints,  let  him  observe  the  re- 

spect  due  to  women.  T,et  not  ladies  disre- 
gard their  character,  and  if  they  change  cos- 
tumes, let  it  be  in  such  wise  that  it  may  be 
excused;  for  male  disguise  usually  is  very 
pleasing.  Let  him  be  on  his  guard  against 
impossible  things,  for  it  is  of  the  chiefest 
importance  that  only  the  likeness  of  truth 
should  be  represented.  The  lackey  should 
not  discourse  of  lofty  affairs,  nor  express  the 
conceits  which  we  have  seen  in  certain  foreign 
plays;  and  in  no  wise  let  the  charter  con- 
tradict himself  in  what  he  has  said^I  mean 
to  say,  forget, — as  in  Sophocles  one  blames 
Oedipus  for  not  remembering  that  he v has 
killed  Laius  with  his  own  h;iml.  .,.  Let  the 
scenes  end  with  epigram,  with  wit,  and  with 
elegant  verse,  in  such  wise  that,  at  his  exit,  he 
\  who  spouts  leave  not  the  audience  disgusted. 
*  In  the  first  act  set  forth  the  case.  In  the 
y  second  weave  together  the  events,  in  such 
o>  wise  tKat  until  the  middle  of  the  third  act 
one  may  hardly  guess  the  outcome.  Always 
trick  expectancy;  and  hence  it  may  come  to 
pass  that  something  quite  far  from  what  is 
promised  may  be  left  to  the  understanding. 
Tactfully  suitxyour  verse  to  the  subjects  be- 
ing treated.  "  Dccimas  are  good  for  com- 



plainings;  the  sonnet  is  good  for  those  who 
are  waiting  in  expectation;  recitals  of  events 
ask  for  romances,  though  they  shine  bril-  '  p 
liantly  in  octavas.  Tercets  are  for  grave 
affairs  and  redondillas  for  affairs  of  love. 
jl JLet  rhetorical  figures  be  brought  in,  as  repe- 
tition or  anadiplosis,  and  in  the  beginning 
of  these  same  verses  the  various  forms  of 
anaphora;  and  also  irony,  questions,  apos- 
trophes, and  exclamations. 

24.  To  deceive  the  audience  with  the 
truth  is  a  thing  that  has  seemed  well,  as 
Miguel  Sanchez,  worthy  of  this  memorial  for 
the  invention,  was  wont  to  do  in  all  his  com- 
edies. Equivoke  and  the  uncertainty  arising 
from  ambiguity  have  always  held  a  large 
place  among  the  crowd,  for  it  thinks  that  it 
alone  understands  what  the  other  one  is  say- 
ing. Better  still  are  the  subjects  in  which 
honor  has  a  part,  since  they  deeply  stir  every- 
body; along  with  them  go  ^ifitwous  deeds,  for 
virtue  is  everywhere  loved; 'hence  we  see,  if 
an  actor  chance  to  represent  a  traitor,  he  is  so 
hateful  to  everyone  that  what  he  wishes  to 
buy  is  not  sold  him,  and  the  crowd  flees  when 
it  meets  him;  but  if  he  is  loyal,  they  lend 
to  him  and  invite  him,  and  even  the  chief 

men  honor  him,  love  him,  seek  him  out,  en- 
tertain him,  and  acclaim  him. 

25.  Let  each  act  have  but  four  sheets, 
for  twelve  are  well  suited  to  the  time  and 
the  patience  of  him  who  is  listening.       In 
satirical  parts,  be  not  clear  or  open,  since  it 
is  known  that  for  this  very  reason  comedies 

,.  were  forbidden  by  law  in  Greece  and  Italy ; 

1  wound  without  hate,  for  if,  perchance,  slan- 
der be  done,  expect  not  applause,  nor  aspire 
to  fame. 

26.  These    things    you    may    regard    as 
aphorisms  which  you  get  not  from  the  ancient 
art,  which  the  present  occasion  allows  no  fur- 
ther space  for  treating;  since  whatever  has 
to  do  with  the  three  kinds  of  stage  properties 
which  Vitruvius  speaks  of  concerns  the  im- 
presario; just  as  Valerius  Maximus,  Petrus 
Crinitus,  Horace  in  his  epistles,  and  others 
describe  these  properties,  with  their  drops, 
trees,  cabins,  houses,  and  simulated  marbles. 

27.  Of  costume  Julius  Pollux  would  tell 
us  if  it  were  necessary,  for  in  Spain  it  is  the 
case  that  the  comedy  of  today  is  replete  with 
barbarous  things:  a  Turk  wearing  the  neck- 
gear  of  a  Christian  and  a  Roman  in  tight 


28.  But  of  all,  nojjpdy  can  I  call  more 
barbarous  than  myselfjsince  in  defiance  of 
art  I  dare  to  lay  down  precepts,  and  I  allow 
myself  to  be  borne  along  in  the  vulgar  cur- 
rent, wherefore  Italy  and  France  call  me 
ignorant.  But  what  can  I  do  if  I  have  writ- 
ten four  hundred  and  eighty-three  comedies, 
along  with  one  which  I  have  finished  this 
week?  For  all  of  these,  except  six,  gravely 
sin  against  art.  Yet,  in  fine,  I  defend  what  I 
have  written,  and  I  know  that,  tho  they 
might  have  been  better  in  another  manner, 
they  would  not  have  had  the  vogue  which 
they  have  had;  for  sometimes  that  which  is 
contrary  to  what  is  just,  for  that  very  reason, 
pleases  the  taste. 

How  Comedy  reflects  this  life  of  man, 

How  true  her  portraiture  of  young  and  old; 
How  subtle  wit,  polished  in  narrow  span, 

And  purest  speech,  and  more  too  you  behold; 
What  grave  consideration  mixed  with  smiles, 

What  seriousness,  along  with  pleasant  jest; 
Deceit  of  slaves;  how  woman  oft  beguiles 

How  full  of  slyness  is  her  treacherous  breast; 
How  silly,  awkward  swains  to  sadness  run, 

How  rare  success,  though  all  seems  well  begun, 


Let  one  hear  with  attention,  and  dispute 
not  of  the  art;  for  in  comedy  everything  will 
be  found  of  such  a  sort  that  in  listening  to  it 
everything  becomes  evident. 

(Translated  by  William  T.  Brewster.) 



i.  The  opening  passage  of  Lope's  poem 
is  thus  rendered  into  English  verse  by  Lord 

Bright  flow'rs  of  Spain,  whose  young  academy 

Ere  long  shall  that  by  Tully  nam'd  outvie; 

And    match'd    the    Athenian    porch    where    Plato 


Whose  sacred  shades  such  throngs  of  sages  sought, — 
You  bid  me  tell  the  art  of  writing  plays 
Such  as  the  crowd  might  please,  and  you  might 


The  work  seems  easy — easy  it  might  be 
To  you  who  write  not  much,  but  not  to  me. 
For  how  should  I  the  rules  of  art  explain, 
I,  whom  nor  art  nor  rule  should  e'er  restrain? 
Not  but  I  studied  all  the  antient  rules: 
Yes,  God  be  praised,  long  since  in  grammar  schools, 
Scarce  ten  years  old,  with  all  the  patience  due, 
The  books  that  subject  treat  I  waded  through: 
My  case  was  simple, — in  these  latter  days, 
The  truant  authors  of  our  Spanish  plays 
So  wide  had  wander'd  from  the  narrow  road 
Which  the  strict  fathers  of  the  drama  trod, 
I  found  the  stage  with  barbarous  pieces  stor'd: — 
The  critics  censur'd ;  but  the  crowd  ador'd. 
Nay  more ;  these  sad  corrupters  of  the  stage 
So  blended  taste,  and  so  debauch'd  the  age, 
Who  writes  by  rule  must  please  himself  alone, 
Be  daimn'd  without  remorse,  and  die  unknown. 


Such  force  has  habit — for  the  untaught  fools, 

Trusting  their  own,  despise  the  antient  rules, 

Yet,  true  it  is,  I  too  have  written  plays, 

The  wiser  few,  who  judge  with  skill,  might  praise : 

But  when  I  see  how  shew  and  nonsense,  draws 

The  crowd's,  and,  more  than  all,  the  fair's  applause, 

Who  still  are  forward  with  indulgent  rage 

To  sanction  every  monster  of  the  stage. 

I,  doom'd  to  write,  the  public  taste  to  hit, 

Resume  the  barbarous  dress  'twas  vain  to  quit; 

I  lock  up  every  rule  before  I  write, 

Plautus  and  Terence  drive  from  out  my  sight, 

Lest  rage  should  teach  these  injur'd  wits  to  join, 

And   their  dumb  books  cry  shame  on   works  like 


To  vulgar  standards  then  I  square  my  play, 
Writing  at  ease;  for,  since  the  public  pay, 
'Tis  just,  methinks,  I  by  their  compass  steer, 
And  write  the  nonsense  that  they  love  to  hear. 

The  two  lines  in  which  Lope  declares  that 
he  locks  up  Plautus  and  Terence  with  six  keys 
were  quoted  by  Victor  Hugo  in  the  procla- 
mation of  his  theories  of  dramatic  art  pre- 
fixt  to  his  unactable 'Cromwell'  (1827).  But 
Souriau  in  his  annotated  edition  of  the  'Pre 
face  de  Cromwell'  thinks  it  possible  that 
Hugo  may  have  borrowed  the  quotation 
second-hand  from  a  pamphlet  by  Scudery,  'La 
Preuve  des  Passages'  put  forth  during  the 
quarrel  over  Corneille's  'Cid.'  It  is  amusing 
to  note  that  M.  Emile  Faguet,  quoting  these 
lines  in  his  'Drame  Ancien,  Drame  Moderne' 

(p.  122)  inadvertently  credits  them  to  Cer- 

Fitzgerald,  in  the  preface  to  his  transla- 
tions from  Calderon,  asserts  that  certain  of 
the  defects  discoverable  in  these  pieces  do 
not  represent  "Calderon's  own  better  self, 
but  concession  to  private  haste  or  public  taste 
by  one  who  so  often  relied  upon  some  strik- 
ing dramatic  crisis  for  success  with  a  not  very 
accurate  audience."  It  may  be  objected  that 
this  plea  is  dangerous  in  that  it  is  based  on 
the  unwarrantable  assumption  that  Calde- 
ron's private  taste  was  different  from  that  of 
the  public  to  which  he  appealed;  but  it  can 
be  urged  in  behalf  of  Lope  as  potently  as  in 
behalf  of  Calderon.  Lope's  own  plea  that 
he  must  give  the  public  what  it  wants  is  more 
effectively  put  by  Moliere,  in  the  preface  to 
the  'Precieuses  Ridicules' ;  "I  should  needless- 
ly offend  all  Paris,  if  I  accused  it  of  having 
applauded  a  piece  of  stupidity;  as  the  public 
is  the  absolute  judge  of  works  of  this  sort, 
it  would  be  impertinent  in  me  to  contradict 
it;  and  even  if  I  had  the  worst  possible  opin- 
ion of  my  'Precieuses'  before  the  perform- 
ance, I  ought  now  to  believe  that  it  has  some 
value,  since  so  many  persons  together  have 
spoken  well  of  it." 

6.      Morel-Fatio  points  out  that  this  para- 
graph is  practically  a  literal  translation  from 
Robortello's  'Paraphrases  in  libram  Horatii 

De  Comedia.'     It  is  mainly  from  Robortello 
that  Lope  derives  all  his  parade  of  erudition. 

8.  In  this  paragraph,  as  Morel-Fatio  in- 
forms us,  Lope  is  again  relying  on  Robortello 
and  also  on  Donatus. 

9.  At  the  end  of  this  paragraph  Lope, 
following  Donatus  blindly,  attributes  to  Te- 
rence the  loftiness  of  style  to  which  Plautus 
occasionally    attained.      As    Damas-Hinard 
noted  in  his  French  translation  of  certain 
of  Lope's  plays,  the  Spanish  poet  is  here 
sinning  against  light,  since  he  had  a  first-hand 
knowledge  of  the  comedies  of  both  the  .Latin 

15.  Professor  Rennert  (p.  180)  points 
out  that  this  distinction  between  tragedy  and 
comedy  is  arbitrary  and  un-Aristotelian,  altho 
it  was  "the  one  that  obtained  thruout  the 
Renascence  and  down  to  the  end  of  the  period 
of  Classicism."  It  was  the  doctrine  of 
Robortello  and  of  the  later  Italian  theorists 
that  it  was  "the  rank  of  the  characters,  and 
this  only,  which  distinguished  a  tragedy  from 
a  comedy."  This  is  the  distinction  which 
Sir  Philip  Sidney  maintains  in  his  'Defence 
of  Poesy.' 

Here  is  Lord  Holland's  metrical  version 
of  the  concluding  lines  of  this  passage : 

Once  to  behold  a  monarch  on  the  stage, 
England,  'tis  said,  our  prudent  Philip's  rage; 
Or  that  he  deem'd  such  characters  unfit 


For  lively  sallies  and  for  comic  wit; 

Or  crowns  debas'd,  if  actors  were  allow'd 

To  bring  the  state  of  kings  before  a  low-born  crowd. 

In  his  'Hamburg  Dramaturgy,'  (p.  394-5 
of  the  English  version  in  Bohn's  series) 
Lessing  translates  a  score  of  these  lines,  end- 
ing with  Lope's  assertion  that  nature  has  set 
us  the  example  of  commingling  the  ludicrous 
with  the  serious;  and  then  he  asks :  "Is  it  true 
that  nature  sets  us  an  example  of  the  common 
and  the  sublime,  the  farcical  and  the  serious, 
the  merry  and  the  sad?  It  seems  so.  But 
if  this  is  true,  Lope  has  done  more  than  he 
intended;  he  has  not  only  glossed  over  the 
faults  of  his  stage,  he  has  really  proved  that 
these  are  no  faults,  for  nothing  can  be  a 
fault  that  is  an  imitation  of  nature."  But 
Mezieres  in  the  introduction  he  prefixt  to  the 
French  translation  of  Lessing's  dramatic 
criticism  quotes  a  passage  from  Diderot  on 
the  danger  of  uniting  tragedy  and  burlesque : 
"Tragicomedy  is  never  be  more  than  a  bad 
species,  because  in  it  are  confounded  two 
disparate  species,  separated  by  a  natural  bar- 
rier." Here  Lessing,  who  had  derived  so 
much  from  Diderot,  reveals  himself  as  in 
advance  and  on  firmer  ground  than  his 
French  contemporary.  It  is  amusing  to  note 
that  Diderot,  so  often  hailed  as  a  forerunner 
of  the  Romanticists,  is  here  a  belated  echo 
of  so  strict  a  classicist  as  Sir  Philip  Sidney 

who  asserted  that  the  plays  he  saw  on  the 
English  stage  were  "neither  right  tragedies, 
nor  right  comedies,  mingling  Kings  and 
Clowns,  not  because  the  matter  so  carrieth  it, 
but  thrust  in  Clowns  by  head  and  shoulders, 
to  play  a  part  in  magestical  matters,  with 
neither  decency  nor  discretion:  So  as  neither 
the  admiration  and  commiseration,  nor  the 
right  sportfulness  is  by  their  mongrel  Tra- 
gicomedy attained." 

1 6.  Morel-Fatio  notes  that  this  passage 
also  is  derived  directly  from  Robortello. 

17.  These  lines  Lord  Holland  turns  into 
English  couplets: 

The  tragic  with  the  comic  muse  combin'd, 
Grave  Seneca  with  sprightly  Terence  join'd, 
May  seem,  I  grant,  Pasiphae's  monstrous  birth, 
Where  one  half  moves  our  sorrow,  one  our  mirth. 
But  sweet  variety  must  still  delight, 
And,  spite  of  rules,  dame  Nature  says  we're  right, 
Thru'  all  her  works  she  this  example  gives, 
And  from  variety  her  charms  derives. 

With  this  statement  of  Lope's  may  be 
compared  the  theory  set  forth  by  Victor 
Hugo  in  the  preface  to  'Cromwell.' 

19.  Here  once  more,  as  Morel-Fatio  has 
shown,  Lope  is  leaning  upon  Robortello. 
Three  and  a  half  lines  of  this  passage  Lord 
Holland  translates  freely  in  this  triplet: 

Who  seated  once,  disdain  to  go  away, 

Unless  in  two  short  hours  they  see  the  play 
Brought  down  from  Genesis  to  judgment  day. 

This  popular  liking  for  the  whole  story 
without  selection  or  omission  is  a  survival 
from  the  middle  ages  when  the  mystery  play 
began  with  Genesis  and  ended,  if  not  with 
judgment  day,  at  least  with  the  casting  of  the 
wicked  into  Hell-Mouth.  To  the  Classicists 
this  prolongation  of  the  action  was  always 
most  offensive.  Lord  Holland  turned  into 
English  the  four  lines  in  which  Boileau  de- 
nounces the  custom : 

The  Spanish  bard,  who  no  nice  censure  fears, 
In  one  short  day  includes  a  lapse  of  years. 
In  those  rude  acts  the  hero  fives  so  fast, 
Child  in  the  first,  he's  greybeard  in  the  last. 

And  Sir  Philip  Sidney  had  earlier  ex- 
pressed his  disgust  for  this  license,  blaming 
the  English  playwrights  for  their  liberal  al- 
lowance of  time,  "for  ordinary  it  is  that  two 
young  Princes  fall  in  love.  After  many  tra- 
verses, she  is  got  with  child,  delivered  of  a 
fair  boy;  he  is  lost,  groweth  up  a  man,  falls 
in  love,  and  is  ready  to  get  another  child; 
and  all  this  in  two  hours'  space:  which  how 
absurd  it  is  in  sense  even  sense  may  imagine, 
and  Art  hath  taught,  and  all  ancient  exam- 
ples justified."  With  this  may  be  compared 
Corneille's  opinions  in  his  'Discourse  on  the 

Three  Unities'  and  in  his  discussion  of  his 
own  'Melite.' 

Lope's  limitation  of  the  duration  of  per- 
formance is  exactly  equivalent  to  Shakspere's 
"two  hours  traffic  of  the  stage."  But  Shack, 
and  after  him  Morel-Fatio,  adduce  evidence 
that  the  customary  stay  of  the  spectators  in 
the  Spanish  theaters  was  two  hours  and  a 

20.  Lope's  advice,  that  a  play  should 
first  be  written  in  prose  to  be  turned  later  into 
verse,  Menendez  y  Pelayo  believes  to  be  bor- 
rowed from  a  passage  in  Vida's  Latin  poem 
on  the  poetic  art, — a  passage  thus  rendered 
in  English  in  Pitt's  translation: 

At  first  without  the  least  restraint  compose 
And  mold  the  future  poem  with  prose, 
A  full  and  proper  series  to  maintain 
And  draw  the  just  connection  in  a  chain. 
By  stated  bounds  your  progress  to  control, 
To  join  the  parts  and  regulate  the  whole. 

Morel-Fatio  thinks  this  very  likely,  since 
Lope  was  familiar  with  Vida's  work.  Oddly 
enough,  the  principle  Lope  here  lays  down 
was  not  in  accord  with  his  own  practise,  since 
the  state  of  the  existing  manuscripts  seems 
to  show  that  he  composed  originally  in  verse, 
altho  on  occasion  he  drew  up  a  preliminary 
scenario  in  prose.  It  may  be  noted  that  the 
method  here  recommended  by  Lope  was  that 
actually  adopted  by  Moliere,  who  (in  his 


haste  to  meet  the  wishes  of  Louis  XIV)  had 
to  call  on  Corneille  to  versify  more  than  half 
of  the  'Psyche'  which  he  had  completely  con- 
structed in  prose  and  which  he  had  not  been 
able  wholly  to  turn  into  verse  within  the 
limits  of  time  set  by  the  king. 

Lord  Holland  thus  renders  certain  lines 
of  this  paragraph  into  English  couplets: 

Plays  of  three  acts  we  owe  to  Virues'  pen, 

Which  ne'er  had  crawled  but  on  all  fours  till  then; 

An  action  suited  to  that  helpless  age, 

The  infancy  of  wit,  the  childhood  of  the  stage. 

Such  plays  not  twelve  years  old  did  I  complete, 

Four  sheets  to  every  play,  an  act  on  every  sheet. 

And  Ticknor  also  employs  the  rimed  coup- 
let for  his  translation  of  a  longer  passage : 

The  Captain  Verues,  a  famous  wit, 
Cast  dramas  in  three  acts,  by  happy  hit; 
For,  till  his  time,  upon  all  fours  they  crept, 
Like  helpless  babes  that  never  yet  had  stept. 
Such  plays  I  wrote,  eleven  and  twelve  years  old; 
Four  acts — each  measured  to  a  sheet's  just  fold — 
Filled  out  four  sheets;  while  still,  between, 
Three  entremeses  short  filled  up  the  scene. 

But  Camille  de  Senne  and  Guillot  de  Saxe 
in  the  preface  of  their  study  of  the  'Star  of 
Seville'  (Paris,  1913,  p.  44,  note)  assert  that 
the  three-act  form  had  established  itself  in 
the  Spanish  theater  half  a  century  anterior 
to  Verues.  And  Lessing  in  his  'Hamburg 
Dramaturgy'  (Dec.  4th,  1767)  had  pointed 

out  the  discrepancy  between  Lope's  assigning 
the  credit  of  this  change  to  Verues  and  Cal- 
deron's  claim,  (in  the  preface  to  his  come- 
dies), that  he  was  the  first  to  make  this  re- 

If  Lope  had  been  familiar  with  Aristotle 
he  might  have  justified  the  three-act  form  as 
simply  the  carrying  out  the  Greek  critic's 
principle  that  a  play  must  have  an  action 
with  a  beginning,  a  middle  and  an  end. 

As  Attic  tragedies  were  acted  without  any 
intermission  they  had  only  a  single  prolonged 
act, — altho  a  trilogy  was  a  story  shown  in 
three  acts.  Yet  the  traditional  five-act  form 
of  the  seventeenth  and  eighteenth  centuries 
is  indirectly  derived  from  the  Athenian 
drama,  wherein  the  number  of  choral  pas- 
sages came  in  time  to  be  limited  to  four, 
separating  five  passages  in  dialog,  which 
when  the  lyric  interludes  were  omitted,  stood 
forth  as  five  separate  acts.  Horace,  prob- 
ably following  the  precepts  of  the  Alexan- 
drian critics,  prescribes  five  acts  (see  Weil's 
'Etudes  sur  le  Drame  Antique,'  p.  325). 
The  MSS.  of  Latin  comedy  show  no  divi- 
sion into  acts  (see  Fairclough's  edition  of 
Terence's  'Andria,'  pp.  lii,  liii,).  It  may  be 
noted  that  as  soon  as  the  five-act  form  was 
disestablished  the  tendency  of  the  leading 
modern  dramatists  has  been  to  adopt  the 
logical  three-act  form.  Most  of  Ibsen's  so- 

cial  dramas  are  in  three  acts,  just  as  Lope's 

Commenting  on  Lope's  strange  prescrip- 
tion of  the  number  of  pages  a  comedy  should 
have,  Professor  Rennert  (p.  163,  note)  tells 
us  that  "this  rule,  as  to  the  length  of  the 
comedia,  which  Lope  here  lays  down,  was 
carefully  followed  by  all  the  other  dramat- 
ists of  the  time,  and  deviations  from  it  are 
rare.  Four  sheets — sixteen  leaves  for  each 
act,  that  is  forty-eight  leaves  to  a  comedia. 
An  examination  of  Lope's  autograph  plays 
shows  how  strictly  he  adhered  to  this  rule. 
Where  slight  variations  are  found  they  are 
due  to  the  difference  in  the  size  of  the  leaves 
— the  comedia  always  consisting  of  about 
three  thousand  lines.  .  .  .  On  the  other 
hand,  the  comedies  of  Miguel  Sanchez,  a 
predecessor  of  Lope,  contain  about  four 
thousand  lines." 

Lope,  like  his  fellow  dramatists  Calderon 
and  Corneille,  Moliere,  Voltaire  and  Gol- 
doni,  had  been  a  pupil  of  the  Jesuits;  and  it 
was  doubtless  when  he  was  a  youthful  stu- 
dent of  the  Jesuit  school  in  Madrid  that  he 
became  acquainted  with  the  critical  theories 
of  the  Italian  commentators  of  Horace  and 

21.  The  rule  forbidding  the  dramatist 
ever  to  leave  the  stage  empty  Morel-Fatio 
traces  to  a  passage  in  Donatus  dealing  with 

the  omission  of  the  chorus  from  the  New 
Comedy  of  the  Greeks.  Altho  Corneille 
does  not  expressly  discuss  this  rule,  he  obeyed 
it;  and  it  was  generally  obeyed  by  all  the 
French  dramatists  who  accepted  the  Classi- 
cist theory,  possibly  because  the  leaving  of 
the  stage  empty  became  the  conventional  sig- 
nal of  the  end  of  the  act.  Even  today  at  the 
Theatre  Frangais,  the  curtain  does  not  al- 
ways fall  on  the  termination  of  an  act;  the 
stage  is  left  unoccupied  for  a  moment  and 
then  the  three  raps  of  the  wooden  hammer 
are  heard,  whereupon  the  characters  enter 
who  are  to  begin  the  next  act.  On  the  English- 
speaking  stage  this  rule  has  never  established 
itself;  and  our  dramatic  poets  have  now  and 
again  achieved  an  effect  of  expectancy  by 
leaving  the  stage  bare  and  letting  the  spec- 
tators wonder  who  is  next  to  appear. 

23.     A  part  of  this  paragraph  is  turned 
into  English  couplets  by  Lord  Holland: 

In  ten  line  staves  should  wailing  grief  be  shown; 
The  sonnet  suits  a  man  who  speaks  alone; 
Let  plain  narration  flow  in  ballad  lines; 
Though  much  a  tale  in  copious  octaves  shines; 
Grand  weighty  thoughts  the  triplet  should  contain 
But  redondillas  suit  the  lover's  strain. 

In  the  introduction  to  his  'Select  Plays  of 
Calderon'  Norman  Maccoll  gives  a  clear  ex- 
planation of  the  various  sorts  of  verse  that 
Lope  mentions  here: — Romances  are  "octo- 

syllabic  trochaics — the  customary  measure  of 
the  Spanish  ballads.  As  in  the  ballads, 
these  trochaics  are  sometimes  rimed  and 
sometimes  assonant.  Redondillas  are  ar- 
ranged in  strophes  of  four  lines  each.  Strong 
endings  and  weak  endings  are  both  employed. 
The  first  and  fourth  lines  rime  together,  and 
so  do  the  second  and  third.  This  is  the  sim- 
plest of  the  riming  measures  in  common  use. 

Quintillas  are  arranged  in  strophes 
of  five  lines  each.  The  only  rule  observed 
in  the  riming  is  that  the  same  rime  must  not 
occur  in  more  than  two  successive  lines. 

The  Decima  is  a  combination  of 
two  quintillas  in  one  strophe  of  ten  lines. 
The  arrangement  of  rimes  is  as  follows :  the 
first  five  are  disposed  .  .  .  a,  b,  b,  a,  a, 
and  the  second  five  are  arranged  c,  c,  d,  d,  jel 
.  Three  other  forms  of  iambic  verse 
are  borrowed  from  the  Italians,  the  Terceto 
(the  terza  rima  of  the  Italians),  the  Octava 
(or  ottava  rima}  and  the  Sonnet."  Maccoll 
in  his  turn  renders  several  of  Lope's  lines 
into  English  rimes: 

In  decimas  finds  voice  the  mourner's  wail ; 
The  sonnet's  fitted  for  the  action's  stay; 
Romances  serve  to  tell  the  player's  tale. 
Yet  octaves  well  can  stirring  news  convey; 
While  deed  of  high  import  in  terzas  shines, 
And  redondillas  are  the  lover's  lines. 

The  incessant  employment  of  these  var- 

ious  lyric  measures  is  evidence,  were  any 
needed,  of  the  prevailing  lyrical  quality  of 
the  dialog  of  the  Spanish  drama  when  Lope 
and  Calderon  were  its  chiefs.  It  may  be 
noted  that  in  'Prunella,  a  Fantasy  in  Three 
Acts,'  by  Lawrence  Hausman  and  Granville 
Barker,  the  authors  emphasize  the  lyrical 
element  in  their  rococo  story  by  scattering 
riming  stanzas  at  irregular  intervals  thruout 
the  dialog. 

That  the  sonnet  with  its  artificial  and  arbi- 
trary scheme  of  intricately  interlaced  rimes 
should  be  intercalated  into  dramatic  dialog 
may  seem  to  modern  readers  a  strange  sug- 
gestion. Yet  Lope  was  here  only  recom- 
mending a  practise  inherited  from  the  me- 
dieval mysteries  wherein  various  fixt  forms 
of  verse  were  frequently  employed.  Their 
stanzaic  rigidity  did  not  prevent  the  deviser 
of  a  French  passion-play  from  utilizing  the 
triolet,  the  ballade,  and  even  the  long-sus- 
tained and  stately  chant-royal;  and  the  play- 
wright availed  himself  of  their  aid  not  only 
in  passages  of  lyrical  emotion  but  also  in  the 
swift  give  and  take  of  the  intenser  dramatic 
moments  of  the  action.  This  tradition  of 
the  religious  pieces  was  taken  over  by  the 
founders  of  the  secular  drama  in  most  of  the 
modern  languages, — in  English  as  well  as  in 
French  and  in  Spanish.  Corneille's  first  play 
'Melite'  was  composed  especially  to  bring  in 


a  sonnet;  and  even  as  late  as  the  'Cid'  Cor- 
neille  cast  his  lyrical  monologs  into  stanzas, 
for  which  he  was  censured  by  the  Abbe 
d'  Aubignac  and  by  Voltaire;  and  Brunetiere 
(in  his  annotated  edition  of  Corneille's  more 
important  plays)  likens  the  lyrical  soliloquy 
of  Rodrigue  at  the  end  of  the  first  art  to  the 
bravura  solo  of  a  tenor,  coming  down  to  the 
footlights  with  his  hand  on  his  heart  (p.  69). 
Shakspere  used  the  looser  Elizabethan  son- 
net for  the  prolog  to  'Romeo  and  Juliet' 
spoken  by  Chorus;  and  Ben  Jonson  employs 
it  for  the  Prolog  for  the  Court  of  his  'Staple 
of  News.'  The  incongruity  of  the  fixt  form 
is  least  obvious  when  the  sonnet  is  thus  kept 
outside  the  play  itself  and  when  it  is  utilized 
only  in  the  address  to  the  audience  before  the 
action  begins.  But  Shakspere  did  not  hesi- 
tate to  employ  this  fixt  form  inside  the  play; 
in  'Love's  Labor's  Lost'  (act  iii,  scene  2)  and 
also  in  'All's  Well  that  ends  Well'  (act  iii, 
scene  4)  he  casts  a  letter  into  fourteen  lines, 
with  three  riming  quatrains  and  a  terminal 
couplet.  And  again  in  'Romeo  and  Juliet' 
where  hero  and  heroine  meet  and  fall  in  love 
at  first  sight,  the  lyrical  significance  of  this 
meeting  is  suggested  by  the  employment  of 
the  fourteener,  Romeo  speaking  the  first 
quatrain,  Juliet  the  second,  while  the  third 
quatrain  and  the  final  couplet  are  shared  be- 
tween them,  each  taking  in  turn  a  line  or 

two.  M.  Rostand  prefixes  a  sonnet  to  every 
act  of  his  'Chantecler,'  utilizing  them  for  a 
poetical  description  of  the  successive  sets  in 
which  the  action  of  his  lyrical  play  is  sup- 
posed to  take  place. 

The  ballade  is  to  be  found  in  two  nine- 
teenth century  French  plays,  the  'Gringoire' 
of  Theodore  de  Banville,  and  the  'Cyrano 
de  Bergerac'  of  Rostand;  but  in  both  these 
pieces  it  is  frankly  presented  as  what  it  is, — 
a  poem  composed  in  the  fixt  form  by  the  hero 
of  the  play.  Maccoll  suggests  that  sonnets 
were  introduced  by  the  Spanish  playwright 
"to  please  the  more  cultivated  part  of  the 
audience";  and  he  remarks  that  "from  their 
nature  [they]  could  be  employed  sparingly — 
not  more  than  two  or  three  sonnets  were 
usually  put  into  a  play."  He  notes  that  in 
one  oif  Calderon's  pieces,  'Gustos  y  Disgus- 
tos'  a  duenna  who  is  in  doubt  as  to  her  imme- 
diate duty,  begins  her  speech  "by  saying 
that  she  must  either  indulge  in  a  soliloquy  or 
pronounce  a  sonnet.  She  elects  the  former, 
and  proceeds  to  soliloquize  in  redondillas." 

28.  Lord  Holland  has  turned  these  lines 
into  English  couplets: 

None  than  myself  more  barbarous  or  more  wrong, 
Who  hurried  by  the  vulgar  taste  along, 
Dare  give  my  precepts  in  despite  of  rule. 
When  France  and  Italy  pronounce  me  fool. 
But  what  am  I  to  do?  who  now  of  plays, 

With  one  complete  within  these  seven  days, 
Four  hundred  eighty-three  in  all  have  writ, 
And  all,  save  six,  against  the  rules  of  wit. 

It  needs  to  be  recorded  that  Lope's  com- 
mentators have  been  sadly  put  to  it  in  their 
endeavor  to  identify  the  half  dozen  of  Lope's 
plays  which  he  here  claims  to  be  in  accord 
with  the  theories  of  the  Classicists. 

Attention  has  been  called  also  to  the  simi- 
larity of  attitude  between  Lope  here  and  that 
taken  by  Webster  in  the  preface  to  his  'White 
Devil,'  published  in  1612,  only  three  years 
after  the  Spanish  poem  had  been  delivered: 
— "If  it  be  objected  that  this  is  no  true  Dra- 
matic Poem,  I  shall  easily  confess  it;  non 
poles  in  nugas  dicere  plura  meas  Ipse  ego 
quam  dixl;  willingly,  and  not  ignorantly,  in 
this  kind  have  I  faulted;  for  should  a  man 
present  to  such  an  Auditory  the  most  con- 
tentious Tragedy  that  ever  was  written,  ob- 
serving all  the  critical  laws,  as  height  of  style 
and  gravity  of  person,  enrich  it  with  the  sen- 
tentious chorus,  and,  as  it  were,  life  'n  Death 
in  the  passionate  and  weighty  Nuntius,  yet 
after  all  this  divine  rapture,  O  dura  mess* 
orum  ilia,  the  breath  that  comes  from  the 
incapable  multitude  is  able  to  poison  it;  and 
ere  it  be  acted,  let  the  author  resolve  to  fix 
to  every  scene  this  of  Horace, 

Haec  Porcis  hodie  comedenda  relinques." 

B.  M. 



Vega  Carpio,   Lope  Felix  de 

The  new  art  of  writing